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Classroom Management: Teacher Burnout Causes & Prevention

Janelle Cox

 

As teachers, we’ve come to terms with a harsh reality—it’s inevitable that we will get burnt out at some point in our careers.

It may seem shocking, but a few years ago experts learned that as many as one in four teachers leave the field every year due to burnout. The statistic begs two important questions: “Why does it really happen?” and “How can we fix it?”

Throughout the years, teaching has evolved into so much more than just educating our youth and going home to our families. In a single day we can play the role of a mother, nurse, counselor, maid, referee, and, if we’re lucky, educator to more than 20 kids.

Let’s take a quick look at why burnout happens, and then we can figure out how we can avoid it.

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Classroom Management

When students lack motivation, are unwilling to learn, or are always misbehaving, this can become very trying on a teacher. What person would want to come to his job every single day and argue, threaten, or have to mediate errant behavior? It can be argued that this arbitration simply comes with the territory of the profession, but its trying effects compound over time, and can affect us well beyond the four walls.

Pressure by Administration

Teachers are creative by nature, and when a school administration puts pressure on us to teach a certain way, it can be quite a discouraging announcement. Take the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), for example. Many teachers are feeling the pressure to change their teaching approach altogether in order to meet the needs of the standards -- and it’s multiplied for educators who already have ill-performing pupils on a regular basis.

For veteran teachers, adopting these new methods may be a huge struggle after growing accustomed to certain academic techniques through the years.

For newcomers to the field, that gleaming smile of optimism and the endless possibilities of knowledge become shackled, and may even motivate them to leave the field.

Lack of Support by Administration

Besides the pressure that a school administration can put on teachers, their lack of support can lead to frustration as well. It takes a lot of effort and guts to approach the powers that be with new ideas and suggestions, let alone full reports revealing how your district can (and will) improve with a handful of changes.

At times, it seems like this information is shuffled away into a drawer and never acknowledged again—an all-too-familiar reality that leaves teachers feeling helpless and unable to leave a personal impact on our students.

Refuse to Call in Sick

It’s no secret that many of us would rather go to school sick than to have to deal with getting a substitute. It’s not that substitutes are bad by any means, but there’s a ton of preparation (physical and mental) that goes into preparing for a missed school day, and most of the time, all of that work boils down to a simple statement: It’s not worth it.

I’m guilty of it myself, but if we’re able to step outside of ourselves for a moment, we’d realize that all the days we actually attend school ill, the more sick we end up being at the end of the week. As much as we want to be there for our students, remember that we are no good to anyone when we are worn out and not feeling well. We should get back to our healthy best as soon as possible so we can perform well for our students.

Refuse to Set Boundaries

Teachers are relentless when it comes to getting things done. If it means taking our work home and staying up hours past bedtime to search for the perfect lesson plan, we’ll do it.

Staying up late grading papers and researching lesson ideas instead of taking a few moments at night to unwind and relax can become very stressful. Taking extra time for ourselves is equally as important as going the extra mile for our class.

How Can We Fix It?

Fortunately, there are things that we can do that can help us to feel less stressed out and ready to teach. Here are some easy ways to help you prevent burnout:

  • Set boundaries and stick to them. In the ideal world, school would be for schoolwork and home would be for family. In reality, you and I both know there is a ton of overlap. When you work from home, try to designate a certain timeframe for work each week so you can budget precious hours for your own life.
  • If you’re sick, actually stay home for once. Like I said before, you are no good to anyone if you’re not feeling well.
  • When dealing with misbehavior in the classroom, don’t sweat the small stuff. Stick to your behavior management plan and follow through with your predetermined consequences. If you feel like you need to make adjustments to your plan, consult a colleague to see if those changes seem reasonable.
  • Try new activities in the classroom. Sometimes all students need to be more engaged is a little change. Now’s a good a time as any to explore new gamificiation techniques or flexible grouping strategies.
  • If you feel like you’re not getting the support you need, talk about it. Open the lines of communication between yourself, your colleagues, and your administrator to talk about why you are feeling this way. If your administration is able to see that these stresses are more of a global problem amongst their staff, it may be more compelling evidence to evoke change.
  • It’s worth saying again—take time for yourself. Your job is your job, it is not your whole life. A little time for yourself can go long way.

Getting burnt out is a gradual process—it doesn’t happen overnight. If we become more aware of the reasons that may eventually cause it, then we can extinguish the flame before it evolves into a smoldering fire.

How do your avoid teacher burnout?  Do you do any tips that you would like to share? Share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.